Dubai gives the green light to reopen gyms, movie theaters and other non-essential businesses as lockdown lifting continues


The Dubai government announced new measures to lift restrictions on businesses, allowing gyms, movie theaters, leisure venues, educational and training institutes, child learning centers and all retail and wholesale establishments to reopen at varying limited capacities.

The emirate of 3.3 million, the UAE’s commercial capital, is pushing ahead with reopening its economy after a grueling two months of lockdown that included a three-week stretch in April of some of the strictest measures imposed anywhere in the world, requiring residents to apply for a police permit in order to leave their homes. Since late April, the restrictions have eased, allowing malls, restaurants and hotels to reopen at reduced capacity and under stringent sanitation and social-distancing rules.

“Under the directives of @HHShkMohd, @HamdanMohammed announces the gradual reopening of business activities in Dubai from Wednesday, 27 May. There will be no restrictions on movement between 6.00 am and 11.00 pm,” the Dubai Media Office tweeted this week, citing Dubai’s ruler and crown prince.

People above the age of 60 and below the age of 12 aren’t allowed to enter malls, sports facilities, educational institutes and movie theaters, and mask-wearing and the maintenance of two meters of social distancing are mandatory.

Curfew across the emirate had expanded from a 10 p.m. start for much of May to an 8 p.m. start during the last week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Eid, the multi-day celebration to commemorate Ramadan’s ending. The two-hour curfew expansion coincided with an uptick in coronavirus infections to around 800 new cases per day, and was believed to be aimed at stopping people from gathering to celebrate what is traditionally one of the most important holidays for the Muslim world.

The UAE has had just over 32,500 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 258 deaths.

“IT’S GAME TIME — WE ARE REOPENING!” an email from one popular Dubai gym read on Wednesday. The robust sports community in the emirate,  which has attracted celebrity athletes, fitness influencers and high-end gym franchises from around the world, is gearing up to serve customers again, but will be doing so under strict new safety guidelines.

“A physical distance of at least 2 meters must be maintained, and separators/partitions (e.g. acrylic dividers) shall be installed between sports equipment, if the nature of the sports activity requires it, to ensure protection of people,” a memo from the Dubai Sports Council read. It outlined regular sanitization procedures for equipment and workout areas, as well as a no more than 50% capacity in gyms and sports centers. Enclosed areas like locker rooms, showers, changing areas and saunas are to be closed off.

Entertainment and leisure venues like the Dubai Ice Rink and Dolphinarium are able to reopen as well.

Dubai’s public beaches remain closed, likely helping boost hotel bookings over the holiday weekend as residents flocked to local resorts for “staycations” as the only legal means of getting beach time.

Dubai relaxing measures faster than Abu Dhabi

It’s worth noting the reopenings so far do not apply across the UAE: neighboring Abu Dhabi, the country’s oil-rich capital, remains largely shut down in terms of business and leisure venues. Some local analysts attribute this to Abu Dhabi having stronger financial means to support its companies, most of which are owned by locals who won’t leave the country in a prolonged downturn.

Dubai, by contrast, has a higher expatriate population, and economists have forecast a potential population contraction of more than 10% by the end of this year if business fails to sufficiently rebound. During Dubai’s strictest lockdown period in April, a survey of roughly 1,200 businesses found that 70% of them expected to close within six months if the lockdown persisted.

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